When Jeremy Pruitt took over as the Vols head football coach after the 2017 season, it was apparent that it was going to take some time to turn the Vols back into a competitive program.
As Pruitt and his staff heads into their second season, they are still trying to figure out who can help them turn that idea into reality.
The Vols wrapped up their second scrimmage on Saturday, and Pruitt was asked about how much emphasis he puts into scrimmage performances when evaluating players as a whole.
He basically said that just because a player isn’t making plays in camp or isn’t a starter on day one, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to contribute during the season. It’s up to him and the rest of his staff to remember that fact, as well.
Pruitt used himself and Zach Stipe, Tennessee’s director of football communication, as examples in a very detailed metaphor to help expound on his point:
“I like to look at it like this — So, let’s say me and Zach are both playing corner, and we’ll just use that position,” Pruitt began as he stood behind the podium. “Zach might be playing with the best technique. He plays with the best technique. He never makes a mental error. He’s always in the right spot, but during the course of a scrimmage, there’s five opportunities for Zach to make a play, and he makes absolutely none of them. Now Zach’s been in the program for four years, or two years, or whatever, been through two springs and now a second fall, so he’s got a better understanding.”
“Then you’ve got me, and I just got here, right?” he continued. “I’m learning the technique, I’m kind of learning, I’m somewhere in between, right? I don’t always know what to do. Might not be lined up with the proper leverage, might not have my eyes in the right spot, but over a scrimmage, I get five plays, and I make four out of five. You’re the coach, do you want to coach me, or do you want to coach Zach? You with me?”
“We’re at that point right now. We’ve got some guys in our program that, because they’ve been here and they have experience, they kind of have the know-how, and that’s important, right, because if Zach’s in the right spot all the time, lots of time the play won’t present itself to him, because he is in the right spot. Then somebody like me that might not know what I’m doing, right, I’m not in the right spot, so the ball can come at me that many more times, you know?”
“So there’s a fine line right there about are you coaching the right people, and that’s something that we’ve got to make a decision on in the next couple of days moving forward, because there will be some guys that are not ready to play right now that the fourth or fifth week, they might be starting.”
As we saw last year, there were players who started early in the year, but were replaced with more effective players as the season went on. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have a young team that is still growing in a particular system.
We also know that Pruitt can develop players. Alontae Taylor, Bryce Thompson. Trevon Flowers, Darrell Taylor, and others can attest to that. Once these kids start showing progress, there’s little doubt that Pruitt will gloss over their abilities.
This staff knows what its looking for when it comes to they players needed to succeed in the SEC, and it’s only a matter of time before they get it figured out.